Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Editorial: Marketing campaign asks the wrong question

Posted by on July 2nd, 2009 at 10:33 am

I really hoped to ignore this story, but now that word about it has spread I sort of have to (unfortunately, a mere Twitter update didn’t suffice).

A local web marketing/consulting firm has plastered a MAX train with the question: “Should cyclists pay a road tax?”

The company says they’re doing this campaign to demonstrate how effective they are at analyzing web conversations. They say the question of bike licensing and registration have been hot topics in Portland lately (and then they link to an article we posted way back in March).

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I don’t agree that the topic has been “hot” lately; but it might be now, thanks to this misguided publicity stunt.

The problem is that the question has (yet again) been posed in a discriminatory and unbalanced way. It plays into the idea that there are two classes of people, “cyclists” and “motorists,” and that “cyclists” are somehow getting a free ride and don’t deserve to be on the roads.

That premise is blatantly untrue.

No matter how many times it’s rationally refuted, this question about whether bikes pay for the roads continues to come up.

So, let’s review a few things:

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA), 92% of the funds for local roads (the ones where people ride bikes the most) come from property, income, and sales taxes — which everyone pays for.

Most people don’t ride on interstates or state highways, but 8% of highway funds come from general taxes, which are paid by everyone — so people who don’t even own a car end up subsidizing motor vehicle travel.

But that’s just the start of the subsidies all taxpayers (yes, even “cyclists”) pay. Consider how general taxes help pay for all the fire trucks and ambulances that respond to the daily carnage caused by cars crashing into each other.

And that’s just the start. I could mention how bikes have a negligible impact on roads, where cars and trucks cause extensive and expensive damage (ridden over any big bumps/ruts/potholes lately?).

In fact, a May 2008 study by UC Davis’ Institute for Transportation Studies estimated that; “the total ‘tax subsidy’ to motor-vehicle users in the US may be in the range of $19–64 billion per year, or $0.11–0.37 per gallon of motor fuel.” (Thanks to a commenter below for pointing this study out.)

Oh, and there’s also the thing about how having bikes on the road means lower health care costs, safer streets for all users (not just people on bikes), better air quality, less congestion, and so on and so forth.

It’s very unfortunate that this ad campaign will do nothing but perpetuate a fallacy and enrage people in cars who already spew this question as they rage by people on bikes who have every right to be on the road.

And, like similar arguments I’ve had to make when The Oregonian and a local shock-jock radio station irresponsibly fanned the “bikes vs. cars” flames, this type of thing can have a tangible, negative impact on public safety.

If they wanted to delve into this topic, they should have asked “Do people who drive cars pay enough?” or even better, “How the heck are we going to pay for these roads?!”

The company says they’ll plaster another MAX train with the results of their study. We can’t wait. Maybe once this is over we can finally move on to a more important topic.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

173 Comments
  • John Lascurettes July 2, 2009 at 10:41 am

    If webtrends can put proof to their pudding, they’ll pick up what you’ve said here too. With the amount of traffic you get, it can’t be ignored. Thanks for making the cogent and fact-filled argument.

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  • Lord Nelson July 2, 2009 at 10:42 am
  • bonnie July 2, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Thanks for summing this up. I’ve had to respond to this question in the past and really appreciate that you have put the reasoned answer into a short form.
    (I personally hope their publicity stunt fails. I’d like to know who they are.)

    Bonnie, the company is Webtrends. They’re based in Portland. –Jonathan

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  • anonymoose July 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Motor vehicle operators -> the ultimate special interest group.
    Special rights for car owners.

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  • the future July 2, 2009 at 10:48 am

    the fact that this company chose to exploit the cycling community for no reason other than to promote their company is sickening. i would understand that if there were an organization which truly felt that this was an issue and paid for a billboard to further their point even if i completely disagree with it. but this is just shameless promotion which puts people on bikes in danger of aggression from drivers.

    we learned too well last summer how the media can easily fan the bike vs. car flames.

    debating the question is really moot since they don’t even really care, though thanks for those facts jonathan.

    hey webtrends. analyze this….you suck.

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  • JohnO July 2, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I left a very similar comment on a blog for the web analytics company that’s sponsoring the wrap.

    It’s really annoying, and reminds me of the snarky coverage the Oregonian’s Harry Esteve gave to the Idaho law.

    What none of them realize (probably because they don’t ride) is that cyclists sharing roads with cars are already vulnerable, and anything that polarizes the debate has the potential to make that worse.

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  • Scott E July 2, 2009 at 10:50 am

    There’s also the nice study by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis.

    http://pubs.its.ucdavis.edu/publication_detail.php?id=1170

    Short version: “We estimate that the total ‘tax subsidy’ to motor-vehicle users in the US may be in the range of $19–64 billion (109) per year.”

    That’s just pure dollars — nothing about the socioeconomic impacts.

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  • ME 2 July 2, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Thank you very much for the editorial Jonathan. I jumped out of my seat when I read about it in this morning’s Oregonian.

    I think it is clear that this strategy is not about generating meaningful results, but showing prospective clients how many people they can draw to their surveys.

    I for one refuse to participate in their poll and I urge other cyclists to as well. The lower the numbers and the narrow the demographic the worse it will be for Webtrends to leverage this stunt into business for their services.

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  • KJ July 2, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I refuse to even comment on or visit thier site and further their gleeful schadenfreude and financial gain. Will we get a kickback? Maybe they can donate some money eared of this publicity stunt to fund some bike infrastructure.

    I agree with Lord Neilson, there is a special place in hell for marketers, I swear they have no soul and they have
    bad research methods to boot.

    asshattery…

    thanks for making my commute safer webtrends… and contributing to good, positive public discourse between different users of public spaces that we ALL pay for that is not incendiary and fosters good will! Way to make a positive difference!(snark off)

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  • BURR July 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

    TriMet should not be accepting ads like this, don’t they have a policy that would prohibit them from doing so?

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  • andy July 2, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Boycott Webtrends. Spread the word.

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  • Herb Fyfield July 2, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the cogent pushback on this ill-conceived campaign.

    HF

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  • skjalf July 2, 2009 at 11:13 am

    What I’d like to see… is someone post a printable document with all the stats on it. Then it can be put up around town near the signs.

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  • PdxMark July 2, 2009 at 11:16 am

    As maddening as their stunt is, I like the irony of the ad being posted on the side of the transportation mode that is most heavily subsidized by non-users. I suspect that each passenger on the train is subsidized by more than the price of his or her ticket or pass. Now THAT’S Irony…

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  • indy July 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I would gladly and happily pay a bike tax if it meant I would get better maintained roads and bike boulevards. I rarely drive anymore, so the argument goes both ways (why should I be taxed for maintenance on roads I rarely use or cause repairs on.)

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  • joe July 2, 2009 at 11:20 am

    nothing to add except for how much i like it when jmaus gets into SMACKDOWN mode!!

    also, webtrends is a dying company – probably wont have to refute them again.

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  • Brian July 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    These marketeers are obviously retards. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for resumes with ex-webtrends marketing people.

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  • John Lascurettes July 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Andy, how exactly are you going to boycott Webtrends? They’re not a consumer company, they sell services to enterprise. Enterprise could give a shit about ethics and will buy who they want to buy if it supports their business plan, model, bottom line or whatever.

    It would be like trying to boycott Akamai.

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  • Neighbor July 2, 2009 at 11:33 am

    You forgot to mention the statistic of “cyclists” who also own, license, operate, and fuel motor vehicles.

    Some people lead a crazy dual lifestyle and we switch from cyclist to motorist all the time! Insane, I know!

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  • Marcello Napolitano July 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I find interesting that a company that claims to be in the marketing industry clearly has no clue of how to word questions in a non-biased way.

    The question I would ask: Should homeowners who bike/walk as their main form of transportation continue to subsidize (with their property taxes) the widening of roads that only benefits rush-hour car commuters? Inquiring minds would like to know. May be too long a question to fit on a Max train, but it would be worth asking.

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  • andy July 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

    John, there are plenty of cyclists who work for companies who might make use of Webtrends’ services. While we as individuals can’t boycott them, the companies we work for can make that call.

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  • Esther July 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I left a comment with trimet’s customer service about their choice to receive advertising revenue from this company.

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  • Ryan July 2, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Nice article and nice refutation!

    The question I have is: why should the broader cycling community (if such a thing exists) be concerned about the question? My concern about “bike vs. car” questions in general is the extent to which they eleicit behavioral responses from drivers make it less safe for bikes. The question being posted by webtrends does not raise this concern for me. This is about as pure a policy question as you could ask for. I’d be far more concerned if the question was along the lines of “should cars yeild to bikes”.

    Another reason I’m not concerned is that we have such strong arguments to show that cyclists and other non-drivers already do pay for the roads. When the question is this bad, answering it becomes a chance to erase some very basic ignorance. Granted, this is not a question that is moving the cycling conversation forward, but it is far from a question that cyclists should be concerned about answering.

    I wish that webtrends had found a better question. I wish Tri-Met had pushed back on posting the ads (ironic that Tri-Met gets add revenues for asking a question about the supposed subsidies of another transportation mode, no?). I do think they are trying to cash in on a divisive issue. Overall, I don’t like seeing this type of ad. But I also think that this is hardly something to be concerned about, and could even be a chance to put the a knife through this red-heerring’s heart.

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  • Jessica Roberts July 2, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Nice editorial. Here are a few more studies to keep on hand for refuting similar idiotic arguments:

    1. Todd Litman @ VTPI shows that nonmotorized users overpay their share of roadways costs, thus subsidizing motorists
    2. Texas DOT analysis proves that no road project “pays for itself”
    3. Don’t forget the myth of “free parking” that we all pay dearly for (both in costs added on to real estate, goods and services AND in the opportunity costs of land reserved for private automobile storage): here’s a repost of a 2005 article in Governing Magazine on the topic

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  • Alexis July 2, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I “participated” and told them to go to hell.

    “Please keep your nose out of this conversation. Way to be obnoxious. We ALREADY pay road taxes. Referencing bikeportland.org –“According to the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA), 92% of the funds for local roads (the ones where people ride bikes the most) come from property, income, and sales taxes — which everyone pays for.

    Bikes can’t ride on (the vast majority of) highways, but 8% of highway funds come from general taxes, which are paid by everyone — so people who don’t even own a car end up subsidizing motor vehicle travel.”

    We’re already paying. For the roads we cause FAR less damage to than cars. So please (PLEASE) keep your nose out of it and stop trying to fan the cars v bikes thing. It’s a complete lie that cyclists don’t help maintain roads (not to mention that most cyclists, not including me, do have a car and do some driving)

    You’re creating an artificial conversation about a non-issue and trying to spread misinformation to make yourselves look cute. Kindly mind your own business.”

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  • Alexis July 2, 2009 at 11:52 am

    @ Jessica Roberts–that first one is for Canada. We don’t have the same laws or taxes, so IDK that it really applies. Good evidence if you’re in Victoria, BC though

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  • Anonymous July 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Excellent editorial and subsequent weigh-ins (i.e. Jessica Roberts’ added gems). This argument is a tiresome one, but the more educated and prepared we are to debunk such unfounded platforms, the more successful we’ll be at pushing forward a more fair and egalitarian system. Great energy and efforts, everyone. Keep up the momentum.

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  • Justin Kistner July 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

    “It’s very unfortunate that this ad campaign will do nothing but perpetuate a fallacy and enrage people in cars who already spew this question as they rage by people on bikes who have every right to be on the road.”

    Actually, the temperature of the conversation has been strongly inline with most of the great points you make in this post. We appreciate the thoughtful comments from everyone so far and think everyone will benefit from a more complete picture of the community’s sentiments around this issue. In fact, some of the best answers have been based on whether the question is poorly framed to begin with. It’s unfortunate that some people are angry and therefore missing the opportunity to contribute productively, but it’s not surprising. I don’t see how it could be a bad result for the bike community if the outcome is that people feel taxation of cyclists is based on a fallacy to begin with.

    Justin Kistner, Webtrends

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  • pdxKate July 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Thank you for this post and all the great points! Keep up the great work!

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  • Andrea July 2, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I do think this campaign is highly inflammatory, but I do take issue with your article as well. You can’t take issue with shock jocks for creating a bicycle vs. car debate when you’re clearly fanning the flames yourself. For example, many of those ruts and potholes aren’t caused by cars, but by big rigs, and I challenge most people to obtain food with out them. Yes, cars do crash into them, and I suppose it’s impossible that an irresponsible cyclist choosing not to obey the rules of the road has ever caused an accident.

    Also, not everyone pays property, income, or sales tax. I get a refund, every year, don’t own a home, and don’t pay sales tax in Oregon. That’s why a federal study doesn’t necessarily apply to a local issue.

    If you would like to talk about socioeconomic impacts, I actually went to school in UCDavis which had a group of people try and ban cars in the city all together. Some of the cyclists would travel in packs (I kid you not), have little respect for rules of the road and would flip you off or spit on your car if they thought they were in the right. It certainly left me with a taste of the socio, unfortunately, it was as in sociopathic. Rudeness and right-fighting is certainly not going to help this issue.

    Granted I spend most of my time on four wheels, but I honestly wonder, why don’t cyclists support a registration tax with a condition that some, or all of it goes to bicycle education and helmets for children? or that it go to keep athletic education or arts in schools? Extra goodwill never hurts. And maybe a registration would make it easier to find stolen property? I’m just spitballin, but it seems that everyone has to pay a little more right now with new taxes and fees. You can fight the inevitable, bow to the inevitable, or try to make sure that your money supports what you want.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Andrea wrote:

    You can’t take issue with shock jocks for creating a bicycle vs. car debate when you’re clearly fanning the flames yourself.

    The shock-jock laughed at the idea of people in cars running people on bikes off the road. The Oregonian themselves admitted to over-sensationalizing a road rage incident. I seriously doubt anything I’ve written comes even close to either of those transgressions.

    “Many of those ruts and potholes aren’t caused by cars, but by big rigs, and I challenge most people to obtain food with out them.”

    Cars with snow studs when they aren’t needed to a lot of damage to the roads, and anyways, I should have referred to motor vehicles in general… i see cars/trucks/big rigs as being in the same boat really.

    As for getting my food.. there are other, more efficient ways to move goods through a city.

    “I suppose it’s impossible that an irresponsible cyclist choosing not to obey the rules of the road has ever caused an accident. “

    sure, people riding bikes have caused crashes… but it is dwarfed by the carnage from motor vehicle crashes… in the realm of 40,000 Americans die because of them every year for starters.
    ===

    Justin from Webtrends wrote:

    “It’s unfortunate that some people are angry and therefore missing the opportunity to contribute productively, but it’s not surprising.”

    Of course people are angry, because your question is patently incorrect and perpetuates a false dichotomy that contributes to more dangerous conditions for people that ride bikes.

    “I don’t see how it could be a bad result for the bike community…”

    Justin,
    you can’t base the impact of your campaign solely on the responses you receive. It’s on the side of a MAX train and has been covered by the The Oregonian for God’s sake. The battle is in influencing the hearts and minds of people behind the steering wheel… and when some people read that question, it automatically validates for them that somehow “cyclists” are freeloaders and therefore don’t have a legitimate right to the road.

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  • Matt Picio July 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Andrea (#30) – everyone who lives in a home and pays rent or a mortgage pays property tax, unless they live in a state that doesn’t collect property tax.

    Yes, renters pay property tax – sure, the landlord writes the check, but I don’t know any landlord who pays the money out of his or her pocket for any property other than the one they live in. They adjust the rent high enough to pay for the tax. Find me a renter whose landlord pays the tax without collecting, and I’ll eat my words, but yes, renters pay property tax, or the landlords would go bankrupt.

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  • a July 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    as despicable a stunt as this is….
    [why not ask: should women pay a voting tax?]

    the problem I see is that they plan on plastering a second train with the “results”

    it may be incumbent on us as cyclists to hammer the site with bike love so that the public “result” is a supportive

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  • Adron July 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I’m sure that the results will prove – is that the overwhelming majority of people in Oregon think a bicycle tax is patently absurd.

    IMHO

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  • Jordan July 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for the article, Jonathan. Your points are excellent and should be placed on a small card for all cyclists to repeat whenever they are confronted with this debate.

    However, if you all read the story from The Oregonian (which for the first time may have done a better job reporting on a bicycle issue), the second plastering will contain the answer to the question. This could actually work for the good of cyclists. This is actually an excellent marketing tool. They are raising discussion, creating debate, and then following through later, while at the same time bringing awareness to the capabilities of the company. I say hats off webtrends. You may have given cyclists a boost.

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  • ScottG July 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I’m going to bookmark this story and the comments for future reference, for certain.

    Thanks for giving us the info we need to counter the ridiculous (yet common) sentiment that bicyclists are somehow stealing from other road users.

    We should target every Oregonian article about bikes and summarize this info in story comments, and get the first word in.

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  • Brad Reber July 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    That’s cute, Justin Kistner poops on the MAX then thanks us for discussing the stench. I especially like the part where he admonishes us for getting angry about it and therefore missing the opportunity to talk rationally about his poop.

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  • a July 2, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    justin

    what other questions did webtrends consider? How about these?

    should minorities be allowed to ride the bus?

    should children be crated during transport?

    should disabled parking spaces cost more for privileged access?

    consider them for your next selfish marketing scheme…i’m sure they’ll be a great service to the community.

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  • a July 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    “hats off, webtrends”??!?

    jordan @ 35, the “results”, however they turn out, will be delivered with far less impact and the damage will have already been done…this is a totally bone-headed marketing campaign that seeks to create bad blood by its fundamental premise. and the marketer stands to the side and counts his money…

    how about creating a marketing scheme that actually brings some GOOD vibes to the community, instead of firing up bad ones?

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  • tony July 2, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I wonder if WebTrends pays enough corporate taxes…. maybe we should find out how much they pay and stage a rally outside their coprorate (not a misspelling) headquarters.

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  • miracle_minnie July 2, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    As the outcome of this “discussion” is going to be pimped just as much as the ill-worded question is, wouldn’t it be a better idea to impart education to help the cause rather than ignoring it or just getting mad about it? Personally, when I hear someone spouting off b.s. dribble about bicycling (or anything else I care about) and the bicycling community, I try to educate that person. This is just a company doing the same thing, only instead of forcing an idea, they’re requesting feedback, even if the question itself is incendiary. This was not an attack on the bicycling community – this is a marketing scheme; there’s really no reason to get ridiculously defensive about it. Let’s use this for our betterment.

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  • El Biciclero July 2, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    “…the second plastering will contain the answer to the question.”

    I can see the second plastering now:

    SHOULD CYCLISTS PAY A ROAD TAX? n o”
    (the ‘n’ and ‘o’ would be split between two MAX cars…)

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  • Kevin Hedahl July 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Justin, I know you are smart enough to know that a biased poll will receive biased results. With that in mind, this advertising is meant to:

    1. create biased results.

    2. create publicity for Webtrends.

    3. build a contact database of people, their employer, and contact info.

    The method chosen by Wedtrends has the unfortunate and unethical result of perpetuating a disproven belief. Next time, please choose a question/topic that won’t result in anger towards a distinctly unprotected group.

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  • at July 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    So does WebTrends even have a place in the analytics market anymore, what with Google offering awesome and free web analytics tools of its own on a massive and successful scale, backed by a world class infrastructure on a globally distributed grid?

    To be honest, I haven’t used Webtrends since 2005 when they quadrupled their product’s base price for no apparent reason. But all I care about is the conversation that takes place.

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  • ME 2 July 2, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Alexis 26, you should ready the study before weighing in on it. The laws and structure for financing roads is not that different between Canada and the US. Also the author relies heavily on US data sources so the conclusions are equally applicable to both countries.

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  • Andy July 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Granted that this has been done in a way that gratuitously contributes to an unfortunate existing problem, it has been done, so what can we do now?

    It now becomes an opportunity. Assuming that they can reasonably aggregate the results, this can’t help but come out in favor of cycling. I cannot believe that there is a rational argument to be made for the other side, so any “informational” aspect of the “results” will clearly favor cycling.

    That leaves the “emotional” aspects, which will likely break into threee groups — those who are passionately on the side of cycling as transportation, those who are passionately against “cyclists getting a free ride”, and those who don’t care or haven’t made up their minds. Now those who haven’t made up their minds will look at the informational aspect and see clearly that those who are against cycling are acting from a place of self-interest and negative emotion and they’ll be moved with compassion toward the cyclists.

    This is how Gandhi won India its independence from Britain, except he used news media instead of internet marketing firms.

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  • Andrew Holtz July 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I decided to respond to the webtrends stunt by pointing out that currently cyclists subsidize drivers and including links to a couple of online articles with the facts about where the money for roads really comes from.

    Yelling at them just feeds those who are looking for excuses to dislike cyclists. Instead, we should bury the ignorance with facts and reason. It ain’t easy, but those with open ears will learn something.

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  • Jessica Roberts July 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Alexis #26, while the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is based in Canada, I believe the analysis in the “Whose Roads” study is based on US data. You will see numerous references to AASHTO, the FHWA, specific locations such as Chicago and Wisconsin, and US-based studies. The “Roadway Funding” section on page 6, for example, performs an analysis based on US figures, then states that “Canadian local roads are also funded primarily by general taxes.”

    It could be made clearer in the study, though.

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  • neversummer July 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Should citizens pay extra road taxes if they choose a low impact, health promoting mode of transport?

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  • Jimmy P July 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I wrote to Trimet. It’s irresponsible on their part to accept this kind of advertisement. It creates an unsafe environment for everyone on the road. And, it does it with blatant lies – implying we don’t pay taxes.

    It’s irresponsible, it’s dangerous, and it shouldn’t be allowed.

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  • Joe Rowe July 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Marking is to make people think they want things they don’t even need.

    Sure, I’ll pay a bike use tax of any kind once cars, trucks and ocean freights pay for all the damage they cause to the roads and earth. Sure, cars pay a tax, but the roads would look like junk if that was the only funding source. The roads are built using a wide range of taxes.

    Every bike means less wear on the road. I’d like some professor to caclulate how much I save the State of Oregon every time I get on my bike.

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  • Hal July 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I think part of the problem here is that Webtrends is clearly **NOT** local. Weren’t they bought by some other faceless megacorp like NetIQ or something a while back? It’s impossible to believe a local Portland company would get behind such a stunt. It’s pure corporate America “you could be anywhere” BS. No connection at all to the local ecosystem. Kinda sad.

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  • andy July 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Something occurred to me this afternoon once I got to thinking about this:

    Webtrends could care less about this issue, one way or another. They are using this hot-button topic as leverage to find out how many people twitter their responses to the “poll” versus how many people use the reply form on their website. It’s better for them if they frame the “question” poorly because it’ll get more people fired up about it. And frankly, if that’s the case, it pisses me off even more than the question itself – because they’re not just being clueless, they’re being deliberately misleading and inflammatory.

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  • DJ Hurricane July 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Jonathan, the post at #28 is free advertising and, unless you accept free advertising, should be deleted.

    Justin (#28), please see my sincere request and hope at #2. You are scum and the world will be better off without you. Now *that* would be a real contribution to the discussion.

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  • Dennis July 2, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I think it’s time we began taxing pedestrians. perhaps a shoe registration, with little tags you hang from your shoe laces. Pedestrians have been free-loading on our society for centuries, using crosswalks, sidewalks, and disrupting traffic. Many pedestrians cause numerous accidents, by being struck by motor vehicles.

    Oh, and people that breathe. those damn freeloading breathers, sucking up all the oxygen…….

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  • BURR July 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Actually, the temperature of the conversation has been strongly inline with most of the great points you make in this post. We appreciate the thoughtful comments from everyone so far and think everyone will benefit from a more complete picture of the community’s sentiments around this issue. In fact, some of the best answers have been based on whether the question is poorly framed to begin with. It’s unfortunate that some people are angry and therefore missing the opportunity to contribute productively, but it’s not surprising. I don’t see how it could be a bad result for the bike community if the outcome is that people feel taxation of cyclists is based on a fallacy to begin with.

    Justin Kistner, Webtrends

    what a bunch of BS!

    If you’re angry you’re not contributing? We’re angry because this stupid display of free marketeering puts each and every cyclist on the road in danger from road raging motorists who agree with the fallacy.

    How could any outcome be favorable to cyclists when 90% of the population still use motor vehicles as their primary means of transportation and are likely to continue to agree with the fallacy?

    ***[deleted by editor*** you, Justin, and the rest of the ***[deleted by editor]*** at Webtrends! May your business fail spectacularly.

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  • Q`ztal July 2, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Only way this method of taxation will be fair is if ALL ROAD USERS pay.

    The road tax would be based on vehicle weight divided by the number of axles on the road. This is the road industry method of determining continuing maintenance costs for a segment of road; it is commonly seen on toll roads. See New York State Thruway Authority for an example of how this works.

    At the same time the inequitable implementation of property taxes to pay for new roads and upkeep must be eliminated at the same time. Some property taxes must be kept as public services such as police and fire departments. I’m willing to pay for my daily wear and tear to our roads; I’m thinking $0.01/100 miles for an overweight cyclist (such as myself) riding a heavy CrMo bike loaded like a long haul touring bike. The super fit cyclist on his, or her, carbon frame rocket bike would naturally pay less.

    This taxation structure might actually encourage the automobile market, which is not about to die, to sell lighter more efficient vehicles.

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  • Jonna July 2, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    People – email WW. Maybe we can get lil’ Justin listed as Rogue of the Week…

    What a tepid exhaust cloud of neutered corporate speak. It’s painful to read that machine-engineered prose. They’ve got you, man. But stay positive! We “appreciate” your time!

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  • tonyt
    tonyt July 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I think their next ad will probably read, “When did President Obama stop being a Muslim?”

    And then Justin will somehow convince himself that the outrage is in fact “dialogue” and he’ll pat himself on the back for it.

    Justin, I don’t think you understand what it’s like to deal with angry motorists living on a diet of ignorance fortified by the likes of you. As Jonathan wrote, you are only fanning the flames.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s not YOU who is going to be out on the road dealing with some moron “expressing” his newly peaked rage with a 3,000 lb weapon.

    Seriously man, you don’t get it.

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  • NB July 2, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Marketers do not have souls. Webtrends clearly doesn’t care what the results are – just read their responses here and at the Oregonian: they think they’re discovering something demographically important and are excited because people are paying attention to them. This is 100% publicity for them – in fact, this entire comment thread is just more advertising for them.

    The question is, how can we turn it against them? I would suggest loading their executive team into a spaceship and flying it into the sun, but more practical suggestions are welcome.

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  • bahueh July 2, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    wow, Justin, you’ve got a big set there pal…

    people are angry over the trite stupidity of your media campaign due to its baseless fallacy and conjecture as to who “cyclists” are and what the contribute…

    I’d bet you actual dollars pal that I make more than the median family income of most Portlanders, but choose to commute via bike due to my home’s (yes, I own a home too) proximity to my job, yet you and your company want to market or promote the idea that I am somehow cheating the city out of revenue…whereas my biweekly pay stub would say differently.

    My guess that is that you have never even considered riding a bicycle to work, or for exercise, or even just enjoyment…so my guess is that you have no perspective, you have no insight, and you have no actual knowledge or experience of what it is you’re marketing for or against…

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  • Toadstools July 2, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Interesting conversation and thoughtful comments by and large.

    My personal opinion is that anything that is done to inflame the non-cyclist/driving community is extremely dangerous. Will Webtrends step up to the plate and attend the bedside an injured cyclist or attend the funeral of a cyclist that their “stunt” causes when some pin-head decides to do something about cyclists?

    There are a lot of us out there and exposed to these 2 ton toys. My own favorite question is “Should Drivers be allowed to use cell phones when driving?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had trouble communicating with a driver with a cell phone stuck in their ear.

    Hope I’m not too much of a whiner.

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  • Joe July 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks Jonathan!

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  • Corey July 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I recently spent $500 to fix a few squares of sidewalk outside my house. I think I will start charging a toll to anybody that steps on my sidewalk squares. Damn freeloaders.

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  • Evan July 2, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I work in government and the number of people who know absolutely nothing about how anything is funded by government is staggering. I cringe whenever I think about the information people consider in order to make voting choices.

    If we required licenses and insurance from deer, I’m sure it would reduce the number of deer hit by cars when they jaywalk on the highway.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt July 2, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Hey everyone,

    I hereby invite all of you to attend Justin’s next “Beer and Blog.”

    http://portland.beerandblog.com/

    “Unwind from the work week and kick of the 4th of July weekend with the usual suspects on the patio of the Green Dragon. Casual Friday style from 4-6pm, yo.”

    Go to his site and learn all about him. http://www.justinkistner.com/work/

    Seriously, since Justin is so “appreciative” of our comments, we should show up in person, continue the conversation, and watch him just glow in appreciation.

    Everyone should be civil of course, but indeed, we should ask him to go for a ride, and if he’s ever had to deal with an angry motorist who thinks he’s not entitled to the road.

    I’m SURE he’ll be there.

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  • Andy July 2, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Would I be misunderstanding the nature of the Webtrends technology if I thought that Jonathan’s blog post and all of the comments here were feeding into their dataset and therefore reinforcing what they’ve done?

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  • Anita Kissee July 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Hello cyclists –
    KATU’s doing this story again tonight (Thursday) @ 6:30 p.m. We tried to hit it from the angle of the publicity stunt and why Trimet would allow this. Thanks to Jonathan for taking part.

    Please add your thoughts to our discussion as well:
    http://www.katu.com/news/local/49742487.html

    Safe travels!

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  • John Russell July 2, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Jonathan, you too are guilty of perpetuating a fallacy. Bikes can ride on interstates and limited-access state highways. While I don’t ride on I-205 all that often, it’s perfectly legal to do so in Vancouver. I ride on SR 500 all of the time. Just look at K’Tesh on OR 217.

    Here’s a handy map I made to clear things up:
    http://tinyurl.com/nrnjzx

    Thanks John. I realize that. I’ve now made the story more clear. –Jonathan

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  • are July 2, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    sent the following to Tri-Met through their contact link:

    I am dismayed to see you allowing a marketing company to place anti-bicycling advertising on your cars. The idea that motorists somehow pay their fair share toward maintaining infrasturcture is a myth, as you should know. The message “should cyclists pay” panders to widespread ignorance and reinforces a message of hatred that very, very, very often expresses itself in aggressive behavior on the roads that directly endangers me. I would strongly urge you to pull this advertising immediately, and to put firm policies in place against this kind of thing.

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  • Steve Bozz July 2, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    “Should drivers who threaten bicyclists be cited with attempted murder?”

    “Should we really spend all that stimulus money on highways?”

    “Should we continue to spend money on wars and prisons instead of adequately funding education and job creation?”

    There are about 32 million more relevant, “hot conversations” out there in the world. Can you imagine the power of plastering a MEANINGFUL question on the side of a max train?

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  • Kris July 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    After having so many customers ditching them for Google Analytics (a far superior and free service), WebTrends must indeed have become pretty desperate that they have to recur to this type of marketing tactics to get people’s attention. Witnessing all the reactions here, I can’t help but feel that this publicity stunt is backfiring big time for WebTrends. Unless controversy was all they were after to start with.

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  • Paul Tay July 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    ROFLMFAO! Looks to me like they are taking notes from Santa! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCxmaw1UIh0

    I guess two can play that game: The only really BAD publicity is NO publicity!

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  • Joshua Bell July 2, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Just checking, but…

    …does everyone here really believe that WebTrends employees are single-occupancy-SUV-driving, bicycle-hating, roadraging maniacs or something?

    You realize, in being a company centered downtown, that most employees DO walk, take Tri-Met, or bike into the office, right? That, perhaps, this topic was picked as one to launch the marketing campaign on because it’s something relevant to THEM that THEY are interested in – not just as a marketing company, but as PORTLANDERS? Maybe they are interested in the results because legislation on this topic would actually AFFECT THEM, TOO?

    Just throwing that out there, devil’s advocate and all…

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  • Corey July 2, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Wow, the KATU site is worse than the standard Oregonian comments section after a bike related story. What I don’t understand is what directs the anti-bike crowd to these stories. Is there an anti-BikePortland site out there feeding them links?

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  • Justin Kistner July 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Hi all, I’m not going to be at Beer and Blog tomorrow, but will be there the following Friday. Happy to talk with everyone!

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  • tonyt
    tonyt July 2, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Re: my last post #66,

    Lest anyone think that I’m advocating descending en masse upon Justin’s beer/blog thing simply because I disagree with him, I want to clarify why I think it would be an appropriate action.

    Justin defends the ad as starting a dialogue. But the simple fact is that Justin isn’t going to be there on the road, where the “dialogue” takes place, we are. He lights this fire, steps away, and then suggests that he and WebTrends are somehow some misunderstood yet benevolent force. If only we understood the good they’re doing for us by bringing up such an important topic! Ha! Isn’t it clever that the premise is misleading!

    So by suggesting that we show up at his Beer/blog thing, I’m suggesting that the chickens come home to roost.

    I seriously doubt that anyone in that WebTrends decision making process rides. Anyone who puts any serious time (years) in the saddle has very real and frightening stories to tell. Anyone who’s been hit by a car can tell you that you INSTANTLY realize that someone behind the wheel with an axe to grind is NOT a joke and it’s not hyperbole.

    Justin, this isn’t your world, it’s all fun-in-a-brainstorming-session to you. You sow the seeds and then go home.

    We ride on these roads. You drive on them.

    I quote from your blog, “To keep myself grounded, I spend time with my friends and family doing outdoor activities, cooking, and partying. Driving my VW GTI also helps, especially on the overpasses on the east side of the Willamette river.”

    Driving to unwind Justin? Perchance exceeding the speed limit? Endangering others not encased within your crumple zones?

    Endangering others not encased within your crumple zones. Yup, that just about wraps it up.

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  • BURR July 2, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    “especially on the overpasses on the east side of the Willamette river”

    Folks, this is, um, the Hawthorne viaduct, so next time you see some ******* [deleted by editor]*** in a GTI speeding past you as you pedal along, think of Justin.

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  • John Kangas July 2, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Can we ask why Trimet, a public agency, is hosting this political message and accepting payment in return for doing so?

    Why are we arguing semantics?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Folks,

    I’m discussing the issue (via email) with TriMet right now. Stay tuned for a follow-up.

    They say they are not in a position to make judgments about the contents on their ads.

    More details to come.

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  • Justin Kistner July 2, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    For the record, I ride the bus to and from work and my website does not say I drive to unwind. Many people in our marketing department ride their bikes to work and many more outside of marketing ride too. I own a bike and do ride for pleasure. I rode my bike all over Eugene during college and didn’t own a car then. I don’t ride here because it doesn’t feel safe. Was hoping to help you all by giving you a platform to be heard.

    Do come talk with me at the event where I volunteer my time to help the community learn how to blog. You’re welcome to park your bikes in the plentiful racks filled with bikes from our attendees.

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  • Ryan July 2, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    After reading a few of the comments, I have some additional thoughts.

    Overall, I still believe this is an innocuous question. The debate over who pays for what and who gets subsidized is an on-going discussion in many areas of policy debate, not just transportation. The question is answered easily enough by the myriad facts listed in this article. Much like the ‘jobs vs. environment’ question from a few years back, the webtrends question is somewhat misguided and has an incorrect premise. It is not, however, negligent or grievously harmful (such as “shock jock” anti-bike material).

    What is more troubling is the response that I’ve seen. I think the healthy response is to engage this as a challenge to get out the facts and reframe the entire debate. Of course cyclists pay our fair share and even provide additional benefits each time we ride. When KATU does a story on this, the focus from the ‘bike side’ ought to provide the facts and point that, far from being freeloaders, the question on the side of the MAX should be “what more can we do to get people on bikes?”.

    The troubling responses are those that tend toward censorship by suggesting that the question should not be asked. Yes, it is a stupid question. The energy should be put into the response to the question though, and not to silencing the party asking it. Engaging earnestly in the debate is what ultimately changes hearts and minds behind the steering wheels (sometimes I wonder if there is a mind there, but I digress).

    I think that cyclists risk the perception of being whiney and above the law when we’re not even willing to engage these questions. In addition to the perception that we brake the rules, it also looks like we also don’t want people asking any questions that might portray bicycling negatively in any way (and are willing to smear anyone associated with the question).

    We should be engaged in all the arenas of debate, from the wonkish side of bike lanes vs. boulevards to the broader public debate about our what the true costs of people’s transportation choices are. My basic point: don’t become indignant that this question is being asked; provide the facts, reframe the debate, and come out stronger for it.

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  • Jason Mauer July 2, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Okay people, let’s not kill the messenger. I am an avid cyclist and BikePortland fan, and also happen to be a techie who frequents Beer & Blog. I know Justin and he’s a good guy, a true Portlander who supports non-auto transportation, whether it be public transit, cycling, walking, etc. Despite his marketing-ish response (that’s his job), he is not a “tool”. Cmon people, focus on the issue at hand, don’t turn this into a spitting contest.

    One more word in Justin’s defense… the guy just started working at WebTrends literally within the past couple of weeks. He probably had nothing to do with the ad himself.

    Anyhoo, although I do understand the purpose of the ad from Webtrends’ perspective, I do think it crossed the line, which has been reflected by the media coverage. Some ads (like Apple’s 1984 classic) get media attention for being especially creative or insightful; this ad is just inciteful. I don’t see this leading to productive discussion, just something for Webtrends to show off their tracking.

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  • Corey July 2, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    @Justin: “I don’t ride here because it doesn’t feel safe.”

    Would you feel safer if car drivers knew that bicycles were legally entitled to share the road? Does perpetuating the myth that cyclists don’t contribute to road upkeep through taxes other than the gas tax cause drivers who already are biased against bikes to become even more hateful?

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  • Kathleen McDade July 2, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    While I disagree with the campaign AND the idea of a road tax for cyclists, I’d like to say that have met Justin Kistner several times and he IS an Actual Human Being (and a pretty good one), so I dislike seeing him referred to as “scum”. I think there are better ways to discuss the issue.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt July 2, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Justin, I copied and pasted the “Driving my GTI” quote from your blog. No editing or embellishment there.

    If you honestly were looking to help us be heard and THIS is what you are doing, two things come to mind.

    1. “With friends like these . . .”

    2. EPIC FAIL.

    Thanks but no thanks.

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  • Nate DiNiro July 2, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Wow Justin, you have really touched quite a nerve! It’s always nice to see that self-righteousness can take any conversation off the path of discourse.

    The arguments that cyclist make about drivers, their actions and lack of attention are quite valid. However, the threats, innuendo and assumptions which many have leveled completely derail the conversation. It’s most interesting to see that most commenters seem to take the position that they are simply better than you or anyone who uses a vehicle for transportation.

    I appreciate that cyclists have a sincere passion for “their” issues, and clearly have strong opinions about the question you’ve asked regardless of whether it’s been asked before. However, wouldn’t it be nice if the cyclists took a step back and accepted that everyone in the cycling community is not perfect. Riders amongst their ranks also break rules and laws, ride in unsafe ways and develop entitled attitudes much like many drivers do.

    What I’d like to see is for riders here to continue educating people, instead of just throwing bombs. The latter seems to invalidate your arguments and make you look like thugs and frustrated whiners.

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  • Mike Mathews July 2, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I am heavily conflicted myself: I know Justin; I ride a bike (mostly in my part of town); my career is in marketing (35 years, that proves I’m pond scum!); I drive a car (I own two for the family); my favorite hobbies are backpacking, photography and playing music; I pay taxes. I’m a real black-heart.

    We all have multiple sides to life. Go read the anti-bike flame war burning on other sites, then come back and listen to yourselves. Do you really want to sound like that?

    Public discourse is the ONLY way things change. While the campaign is inflammatory, I doubt WebTrends realized in the beginning just HOW inflammatory the subject actually is, they certainly realize this now. They are now receiving far more publicity than they expected, so if you wish their campaign to fail, stop talking about it. If you recognize that the campaign will probably result in more good than bad, keep the talking going and channel it into positive action. Usually this level of public discussion only erupts when someone gets killed on a bike and that’s never a positive outcome, it is only full of regret.

    As for Justin, recognize he is just a representative of WebTrends. He’s being darn open about who he is and what he does. How many other people on this blog, other blogs, or within WebTrends are being this open? When Justin says he is happy to talk to you next Friday, he is actually sincere and you will find him to be a friendly and concerned fellow who will carefully listen and respond with interest.

    Keep the discourse civil and bend it to your will, make something from this instead of being left with a missed opportunity. I expect the outcome will be positive to the bike community and plastered all over Tri-Met vehicles.

    Don’t wait a week, write to him now on his blog or on the WebTrends blog, you might see your ideas become reality instead simply fanning more flames.

    Hope to see you on the trail or in the bike lane.

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  • Justin Kistner July 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Tony, the question was framed by HB 3008 and existing conversations. We asked the community how they felt about this issue to expose everyone’s sentiment knowing that it should be a softball for cyclists. I understand your frustrated, but hope you can make it to Beer and Blog so we get a chance to know each other.

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  • Nyco July 2, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I’m with Kathleen. Justin isn’t the issue here. Attacking people isn’t productive. One-sided “discussions” on the side of MAX trains aren’t productive either. When you start tearing a person to shreds because s/he tried to participate, you become no better than that ad campaign. How about less stone throwing and more idea sharing?

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  • Zaphod July 2, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I think webtrends could do wonders for their image if, along with whatever data they collect, representative or otherwise, they add the following information in an equal sized font:

    Most funding for roads come from taxes that everyone pays

    Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicles

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  • Webtrends Employee July 2, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I work for Webtrends and this ad is embarrassing.

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  • BURR July 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    and on top of everything else Justin’s patronizing tone really does wonders for his relationship with the cycling community

    advertisers and marketing droids really are the scum of the earth

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  • John Lascurettes July 2, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Ryan, well put.

    Justin, the question posed by the bill is dead. The bill is dead. Has been. It’s a little late to drop a turd bomb like this on the party.

    Just to drop another factoid: ridership in Portland is >4% of total trips (or is it >5%?) while bikes and pedestrians only get 1% to share out of new project funds. How is that for not getting paid our fair share of taxes back that we pay into the system?

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  • Ron July 2, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Howdy–

    One of the great ironies is that quite often no one paid for the roads initially. The actual real estate is either claimed by the government, sometimes through eminent domain, or it’s provided by developers as part of their platting. Even where there is compensation for the space, it’s rarely through gas tax. That’s more likely to go for road maintenance and highway development, which, as JM points out, doesn’t usually allow for cycling.

    And how else would we build communities? Roads aren’t for cars, or bikes, or horses–they’re for people. They predate all modern forms of transportation. It’s hard to imagine how one would build livable spaces without them.They’re like the mortar between the bricks, the spaces that hold us together by holding us apart. They are public rights of way.

    Now I have to stop, because I already feel dirty playing into Justin’s ploy. As Naomi Klein points out, once a marketer gets hold of idea, it loses its value. They use ideas to promote brands, not to solve problems. In this case it’s even more insidious as the brand they’re promoting is themselves, and no matter how the ideas play out, they’ll drop the issue long before there’s any resolution. Justin just wants publicity.
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg

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  • KJ July 2, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    After a day of work and time to think (And Chill)I feel less snarky and a little ashamed of my snark.

    I am NOT fond of marketing, but I do not really truly believe those folks who engage in it are hellbound..well maybe the special hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater…(that is a Firefly quote folks for levity!)

    So Justin, even though your company has pissed me off, kudos for keeping your cool as may of us are not. I credit you that. Personal attacks are not nice or fun.

    Reading all the comments, like and angrier than mine, on here made me think about how we get viewed by the public. And this thread is making us look, mean.

    I commented here about this topic because it upset me and I didn’t want to be upset on webtrends and I didn’t want to give in to the marketing ploy. (damned if you do damned if you don’t especially since the KATU coverage eh?) But I wanted to vent to people who understand.

    Partly my ire was raise because just yesterday I had an encounter with a Trimet bus driver on a route I ride home every day, mere block from my home that made me uncomfortable. It was pretty damn civil as far as such interaction can go, but I felt very uncomfortable. So the timing for an ad like this on a Trimet vehicle hit a raw nerve.

    It seems an innocent question, but is badly phrased, and even though it has soundly refuted, again and again… because of the phrasing of the question and the upset and uproar is has sparked, the message will be lost or fall on deaf ears. (Yes, my earlier comment is part of that.)

    And yes, it’s an important topic to discuss as a community at large. And yes I think we need to educate people out there.

    However I think part of the sting is that it’s a forced conversation. It goading.

    That although info is part of the goal, that’s still exploitative. For the gain of a company.

    Honestly, perhaps webtrends could have researched how to try to market the question by first poling those it might effect the most.

    I am not sure how, with the media coverage it’s getting and our reaction (I am so not going to read the KATU comments), that the results can be useful statistically.

    I feel it will end up a pile on of for/against instead of a well rounded debate.

    Webtrends probably DOES mean well, but I think this one needs to go back to the drafting table.

    Sadly, even though I will not comment on the webtrends because 1)I REFUSE to Twitter so I can’t comment anonymously and 2) I also refuse to give up all my info so I can’t comment non-anonymously and 3) I don’t appriciate being forced (ok, goaded not forced. I don’t have to participate)into a conversation being had for someone else’s PR and profit at my expense (in public perception and road rage).

    But because this is going to end up PR in the end regardless (it already is) maybe we should all stuff the ballot box as it were, even if that does make for biased results.

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  • mediaChick July 2, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I wrote that Beer and Blog post quoted in #66 (typo and all) and felt a bit threatened, tonyt, when you suggested everyone show up for “Justin’s” Beer and Blog on Friday “and watch him just glow in appreciation”.

    You see, Justin is not the entirety of Beer and Blog. Beer and Blog belongs to a whole slew of folks. And on that point, Justin is not the entirety of Webtrends. And he did not set out to purposely piss off anyone. Really.

    So…why the personal attacks?

    It’s so hostile here I’m wondering if someone’s going to rip into me just for saying Justin is a nice guy, which he is, who doesn’t deserve to be called “scum”, which he doesn’t.

    Please be nicer.

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  • Kris July 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Justin Kistner #90:

    Whether the question is a softball or not is irrelevant. What you apparently fail to recognize, is that the question comes across as highly suggestive and for some (not me) even as inflammatory. Feigning ignorance about that as a marketeer seems disingenuous.

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  • jcrawford July 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I’m curious about the idea that WebTrends has “Crossed the line.” If one of the key purposes of the campaign is to demonstrate their analytics capabilities, it seems like selecting a controversial topic is ideal, because it’ll generate the most responses. And how complex of a query can you expect them to fit on the side of a MAX car without people seeing a wall of text and leaving it at TL;DR?

    I think the only thing that’s making the campaign bad at this point is the discussion of how bad the campaign is… making it a meta-issue that’s not WebTrends’ fault. it’s, well, it’s all of our faults.

    And the argument that this is to show off how many people WebTrends can attract is completely invalid. This is attracting people because it’s a contraversial issues. Their clients aren’t going to hire them to collect data on a controversial issue, their clients are going to hire them to collect data on a specific issue that will probably be nowhere near controversial. This isn’t to show off their ability to draw people, because they aren’t drawing respondents, the issue is. and potential clients are hopefully going to have the practical competence to figure that out.

    Keep in mind that TriMet really isn’t involved in this at all. Advertising on TriMet property is contracted to Lamar Outdoor. And they’re just an advertising company, not exactly guardians of peace or anything.

    And, I always have to say… As long as people are taking sides, nothing gets done. Can’t we all just understand the other’s position a little? No? Okay, how about we just pretend that we don’t hate the other side. It’ll help, trust me.

    Also realize that the WebTrends question was about taxation, not fundamental rights to the road or how much people hate eachother. Some people seem to be extending the issue too far. Sure, they’re related, but does the question of taxation really directly link to road safety? I’m just having trouble believing that this question is really so inflammatory or malicious or whatever. it’s not like “Should it be legal to run down cyclists?” or anything.

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  • Nabil July 2, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Man, I’ve got to give kudos to Justin for stepping up and taking the heat… the personal insults, the ad hominem attacks, all simply for being affiliated with a company.

    As near as I can tell, the only transgression WebTrends did with this campaign is 1) poorly phrasing a question that 2) the bike community feels they’ve already answered. Everyone needs to calm down — getting angry, getting confrontational, slinging hate does NO ONE any good, your argument least of all.

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  • […] has reared its senseless head in Portland. Bad place to raise that canard. BikePortland.org is on the case and has major media […]

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  • K'Tesh July 3, 2009 at 12:57 am

    “The company says they’ll plaster another MAX train with the results of their study. We can’t wait. Maybe once this is over we can finally move on to a more important topic.”

    How about a topic like “How about putting the MORONS behind this stunt out of business?”

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  • Ed Borasky July 3, 2009 at 1:24 am

    I know Justin too … I’ve spent many hours at Beer and Blog over the past six months. And yes, he is new to WebTrends and should not be held responsible for the WebTrends campaign. And there’s no excuse for the kind of name-calling and attacks I’ve seen here.

    That said, I do think the WebTrends campaign is inappropriate and poorly thought out. As far as I’m concerned, public fiscal and transportation policies should be decided by the *existing* mechanisms as authorized by the laws we have and our (mostly) representative form of government. And there are plenty of other ways WebTrends can demonstrate its technology, contribute to our community, and, in the words of Tara “Miss Rogue” Hunt, make “whuffie”. If I were WebTrends, I’d stop the campaign and apologize.

    I’m not a cyclist, but I do ride Tri-Met regularly. I didn’t see the train in question today. If it matters, I don’t believe cyclists should pay a tax — in fact, as far as I’m concerned they ought to get some kind of tax *credit* or carbon offset!

    But we *do* need to have realistic conversations about fiscal and transportation policies. If this campaign triggers those conversations, that’s a good thing. But that’s not what appears to be happening.

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  • Steven July 3, 2009 at 1:26 am

    One test ad by a marketing company, and the cycling community completely loses their shit and goes ballistic.

    Tad sensitive, aren’t we?

    Right from the start, this was admitted to not be anything even remotely serious. No one with influence is actually proposing that we tax cyclists. It’s a gimmick to draw attention.

    The more cyclists throw a temper tantrum over a piece of marketing fluff, the more good you’re doing Webtrends. If you really want to kill this crap, just ignore it. For marketers, there’s no worse insult than being completely ignored.

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  • davegriff July 3, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Wow, what nice people on here. Sure makes me want to visit Portland and go cycling just in case I meet someone who might describe me as ‘scum’ or ‘boneheaded’ just because of the job I do (I’m not a marketeer, for the record).

    A semantic point, but a simple question with a Yes/No answer cannot be ‘incorrect’ or ‘lies’. You either believe the answer to be Yes or No.

    I don’t doubt from reading this that the subject evokes a strong response, but flaming vitriol just looks like a child’s hissy fit.

    Grow up, people. You’re embarrassing yourselves and your community with a lot of the comments on here.

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  • Thom Schoenborn July 3, 2009 at 9:00 am

    First, some humor:
    http://www.dilbert.com/strips/comic/2009-07-03/

    Web analytics is just one tool for marketing intelligence and business intelligence.

    The promise of web metrics like WebTrends is that, unlike traditional methods for measuring sentiment and effectiveness (polls, surveys, retail sales), a business or political group doesn’t need to wait days or weeks for their data. It’s online. You can pull your data twice a day.

    However, the fact that WebTrends makes everyone wait until August or September for results seems to discredit their claim of being so advanced.

    Imagine if this interactive experience provided daily dashboard of sentiment that let people use all the WebTrends tools to create their own analysis of this topic.

    In the absence of data (though I know the BTA and others have provided plenty), people make assumptions, use their own bias, and appeal to emotion. But if WebTrends was posting real-time or daily measurements about the topic, the company would remove themselves from the conversation and put the focus on their new (very cool) tool and the topic.

    I don’t know their marketing goals, so it’s possible they wanted the stunt value. It’s possible they wanted to be a part of the conversation.

    Sorry — this is probably a very droid-like comment to anyone who’d prefer to talk cycling and not marketing.

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  • Ed Borasky July 3, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Steven: I’ve got a problem with “gimmicks to draw attention”. WebTrends is in the business of measuring sentiment, and I think a company that’s in that business ought to be paying attention to what people in their “home town” think about *them*.

    davegriff: Some of us think before we post for all the world to see, and some of us don’t. I don’t think PDX is any different in that respect from LA, NYC, Las Vegas, Toronto or Charlotte, NC. What’s it like where *you* live??

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  • B Clark July 3, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I think Ryan (#82) makes the most sensible points on this thread. I agree that this question perhaps needed more thought before being posted in Portland, but trying to suppress even asking questions seems like the wrong way to go.

    I’m not a cyclist and not a marketer. As a pedestrian and public transit rider, I’m just in the middle. I didn’t see the ad but if I had seen it, I probably would have thought it was the kind of phrasing marketing folks use to draw attention. I wouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that there was evil intent on the part of Webtrends and certainly not from Justin Kistner.

    I do know Justin from some of those Beer&Blog meetings (as mentioned above he’s not the only person who writes for B&B). He’s a reasonable guy who happens to work at Webtrends and is trying to respond to your comments. Personal attacks and threats don’t do much to make the biking community seem reasonable.

    I realize you’ve been through this argument before but it seems to me that continuing to publish the data — and Portland/Oregon data if possible — is a better strategy than attacking a marketing guy.

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  • davegriff July 3, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Ed Borasky: Good point, and don’t get me wrong I wasn’t bashing Portland – I really like the place.

    As both a cyclist and motorcyclist myself (and having lost a good friend who was killed while cycling 18 months ago), I can definitely identify with a lot of the comment here.

    And you’re right, it’s pretty much the same everywhere…

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  • Kt July 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

    I have a couple of comments:

    1– Sure, Justin and the folks at WebTrends may be nice people. That doesn’t excuse their actions. Reading all that here reminds me of all the news reports we read in 2007, about how “nice” and what “good people” those drivers were who killed cyclists– remember the guy who tried to steal some beer from a grocery store, then sped from the parking lot and ran over a cyclist? He was described as “a good man, a good father”. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you make poor decisions.

    2– The timing of this ad tells me that WebTrends is way behind the times. This ad would have been more relevant earlier in the year or last year, when we were having all those discussions about the same topic.

    3– The answer to the question is easily found without having to take a poll. Cyclists already pay for the roads. The only people who don’t pay for the roads are unemployed, homeless, absolutely broke people. Maybe the question should have been how to get those people to pay for the facilities they take advantage of?

    4– Don’t feed the trolls!!! (Webtrends = troll)

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Cynical Scum. Pure and simple. You slimeballs at Webtrends want to wash your hands of this? Put actual facts on the side of a bus.

    Bill Hicks said it best:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

    “You are the ruiner of all things good”

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

    What Justin, can’t take the heat? I thought you wanted attention?

    http://twitter.com/justinkistner/status/2447904415

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Also what continues to astound me is how innocent these marketing douchebags think they are.

    Q: Where did all this outrage come from?

    A: YOUR AD CAMPAIGN, YOU FOOL.

    It’s like these guys don’t even live in the same world as the rest of us. Like small children, they are completely detached from the results of their own actions.

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  • Justin Kistner July 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I can take the heat, Robert. Just looping more people into this portion of the conversation. I think it would benefit you to be more civil, but I understand if you’re feeling raw about the issue.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 11:33 am

    @Justin

    For someone who can’t even muster the nut to ride his own bike in Portland, but will publicly question the legitimacy of those who do ride – you have a lot of nerve asking us to be more civil.

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  • Justin Kistner July 3, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Robert, remaining cool in a public conversation is not about me requesting anything. You are free to behave how ever you want to be perceived.

    I have a family which means my life and the risks I take are about more than me. I would love to see more dedicated bike infrastructure that made it safer for all of us. I have much respect for you and your courage to ride on the streets we have now.

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  • BURR July 3, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Here’s an interesting wrinkle to this story, from the Webtrends web site:
    https://www.webtrends.com/LP/Events/Max.aspx

    Why are you using Twitter for the opinions?
    It’s a mainstream communication service that is free and easy to use making it accessible. It works on mobile devices, which makes it easy for people to share opinions from the street where they see our MAX ad.

    These idiots are actually encouraging motorists to text their response on Twitter while they are driving!

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    @Justin

    Since you are now appealing to emotion by mentioning your family, let me make it real clear why people are so upset with what you and your company are doing:

    You and your company’s publicity stunt put the lives of my loved ones and myself in mortal danger by publicly challenging our right to exist on the roads while using a classic anti-bike fallacy.

    To make light of this fact is intellectually dishonest, as you yourself claim that it is already too dangerous to ride in Portland. It does not take a rocket surgeon to understand the reasons why you feel that it is dangerous to ride (hint: starts with “M” ends with “OTORISTS”), and you just made it that much more so by empowering those that already believe we don’t have a right to exist on the road.

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  • Justin Kistner July 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Robert, we didn’t create the tension with motorists, nor did we invent the question, which was not whether or not bikers should be on the road. We did create an opportunity for Portlanders to talk about the heart of the matter, which we feel is healthier than avoiding it. We don’t expect the conversation to be without its challenges. We’d love to see you help create harmony through education.

    Signing off for the weekend. Look forward to picking up this discussion again on Monday. Happy 4th to everyone!

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  • BURR July 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Justin – your patronizing attitude as well as your passive-aggressive responses do very little to help your cause. This issue has already been discussed plenty, and your publicity stunt – which is all it is – will in all likelihood do little or nothing to educate motorists that cyclists do pay taxes and do have a right to be on our public streets; if fact as many have pointed out, it is likely to do exactly the opposite – reinforce motorists’ sense of entitlement and create more – not less – tension and conflict between motorists and cyclists on the street. All you are really doing is fanning the flames of the ‘bikes vs. cars’ debate that the Oregonian has already over-exploited in this community, to everyone’s detriment.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    @Justin

    Robert, we didn’t create the tension with motorists, nor did we invent the question, which was not whether or not bikers should be on the road.

    Nah you just took a dead non-issue and stuck it in everyone’s face to tweak people for your company’s publicity.

    Why not try some other winners, like “Should women have the right to vote?”, “Can the negro race ever integrate with white society?”

    By paying to put these questions in public forum, you would clearly legitimize the misogynist, and the racist with your efforts.

    Take some responsibility for your actions for f*cks sake!

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  • wsbob July 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    “The company says they’re doing this campaign to demonstrate how effective they are at analyzing web conversations. They say the question of bike licensing and registration have been hot topics in Portland lately (and then they link to an article we posted way back in March).” maus/bikportland

    Where does the company say this and provide the link to the bikeportland article? Didn’t see anything like that in the Joseph Rose story, the company’s website, nor do I remember any reference to it in the comments above. Maybe I missed it. Is it on the question/advertisement on the MAX? What exactly is Justin Kistner’s role in Webtrends? Nobody seems to have asked or answered that question yet.

    If the company saw…and read…the previously posted bikeportland story discussing possibility of introducing registration of bikes in Oregon, that Webtrends is claimed to have linked in their statement, that would suggest that they did at least some research before framing the question “Should cyclists pay a road tax?”.

    From that research, and hopefully…more from other relevant sources, it seems as though Webtrends personnel would have understood fairly well how roads are paid for and to what extent it’s legitimate for bikes to use them, which would have helped them frame a more constructive but less antagonistic question regarding the possibility of instituting a road user tax.

    Research should also have made Webtrends aware of just how limited is the public’s understanding of how roads are paid for and how widely held is the misconception that operators of motor vehicles are the only road users paying for road construction and maintenance.

    Instead of having a needlesly antagonistic effect, Webtrends might have provided a benefit to the community by spelling out a few simple facts about how funding for road construction and maintenance in Oregon is generated, possibly accompanied by a simple question…something similar to the one they framed…something like this:

    ‘Should road users pay a road tax?’

    Wouldn’t have produced quite the same reaction from the public. Isn’t that right?…Mr. Kistner, (whatever your position with Webtrends is…)Quite likely would not have had nearly the same resounding Ka-boom !!#&%## the question your company framed has had.

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  • Corey July 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    @Justin
    I suggest you look at the comments your silly publicity stunt has created outside the bike community. On the KATU site last night every third comment seemed to be of the “run them off the road” or “bikes are toys” variety. The majority of the rest were calling us freeloaders.

    I’ve yet to see a post here suggesting we kill you. Maybe then you’d understand why we’re so upset at your stupid campaign.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 3, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    And to prove why concerns over thos campaign are valid, I just listened to two voicemails from people who were very angry and threatening toward me. They both were men, all fired up that I would even think I shouldn’t have to pay for the roads I use. They were both misinformed about my views on this incident and about the fact that everyone pays for the roads. The anger in their voices was shocking to me and I’ve been doing this job for several years.

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  • q`Tzal July 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    @Justin

    The framing of your question “Should cyclists pay a road tax?” reinforces the prejudices of angry motorists and legitimizes their aggressive and bike-icidal behavior.

    Perhaps you could have asked “Should personal automobiles pay a road tax?” A little research shows that there is no uniform revenue stream for road maintenance; google “road tax” in the US and you’ll find that there is no road tax.
    The following is from Wikipedia
    “In the United States, such fees are called car taxes, vehicle license fees, or registration fees and are imposed on a state-by-state basis. For example, in Massachusetts, the excise tax is billed separately from registration fees, by the town or city in which the vehicle is registered, and was set at a fixed rate of 2.5% statewide by a 1980 law called Proposition 2½‎. Within some states, the fees may vary from county to county, as some counties have surcharges per vehicle. An example of this is Virginia’s personal property tax. The state of New York, on the other hand, charges a tax based on the vehicle’s weight, rather than on its value, which is charged at the time of registration renewal.”

    As a marketer you have access to a large audience. In the future consider using your power for good and evil.

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  • El Seven July 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Brilliant Jonathon! By writing “editorial” on this post, you’ve managed to imply that other posts are not biased. Straight out of the Fox News playbook!

    I know you like to label everybody who doesn’t live as you do as lazy, fat, and not worthy of living in “your” world. Does that make you intolerant? Are you a bigot? I think so. The anger you hear has nothing to do with the side of a bus. It has everything to do with your sanctimonious attitude.

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  • El Seven July 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Oh wow, Robert, you too tried to pull out the equality of women and Negros to justify your argument! Are you going to bring up Hitler as well? Please stop with your horrific sensationalizing because somebody asked a question. It is not a “dead” issue, it is a perfectly valid question considering how Americans feel about taxes and the general perception that people who don’t pay, don’t deserve. Just because YOU have everything figured out doesn’t mean everybody else does. Or do you and Jonathon just want to prevent anybody from ever asking questions? Scary. I think the Khmer Rouge eliminated all so-called offensive questions too.

    Family at risk? Because of a question on a bus? Please. If you want to see what’s generating hostility, look no further than your mirror.

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  • Elly Blue July 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the overall thoughtful discussion. We appreciate all the heated opinions, but must remind you all to keep things civil and respectful and to think a moment before you hit “Submit.”

    Have a great long weekend,
    Elly

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  • mikeybikey July 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    my question is, why do folks who don’t generally ride bicycles feel the need to come along and poke the cat? are they sadistic? bored? not getting any? and re:hostility_in_the_forums.. why act surprised when the cat tires of being poked and decides to scratch?

    maybe in the grand scheme of things this whole webtrends thing isn’t the worst thing that could come down the line, but you just have to ask what were they thinking? the common thread among many folks who have been riding for any amount of time are stories of being verbally threatened, physically attacked, intimidated, and hit by thrown objects for ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER REASON than because he or she chose to ride a bicycle somewhere. on a road. amazing. i know. not to mention, those multiple near death experiences for the bonus! these events carry psychological weight for all of us that have experienced them. there are few other demographics in america that can say they have had their lives or well being threatened many, many times.

    so this is the starting point for many people who ride. the webtrends thing is just another event in a long tradition of thinking that looks to question or threaten the legitimacy of cycling on the road without first looking inward and questioning their own legitimacy and their own assumptions (i.e. why is the highway trust fund bankrupt.. hint: it has nothing to do with bicycles and a lot to do with cars and trucks not paying enough).

    questions that might be more useful and helpful for _all_ road users would be ones that make people think about the built in dangers of vehicles (both for users and those outside the vehicle) and road systems. no matter how we choose to get around, nobody wants to be on the giving or receiving end of these statistics: thousands of pedestrians killed every year. nearly one-thousand cyclists killed every year. over FORTY-FIVE-THOUSAND motorists killed every year. being killed by a car or in a car accident is the 4th leading cause of preventable death and is the NUMBER ONE cause of death for our children.

    the question posed by the max ad is not useful dialogue. it is sensationalist junk politics and junk media. webtrends should hire smarter people (like me?)

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  • Steve Bozz July 3, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Call to order: WebTrends is responsible, not Justin. Refocus the argument towards the corporation and it will be more effective. Onward.

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  • BURR July 3, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Justin apparently chose to come here himself and defend the ad on behalf of the company. Perhaps not the wisest choice, since his personal style is almost as irritating as the ad itself.

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  • John Lascurettes July 3, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    As Senior Manager Social Media Marketing at Webtrends, he’s got to be pretty close to this project. That doesn’t justify his cavalier attitude about people’s offense over the ad — neither is the name calling against him however.

    What’s done is done unfortunately and now we need to push other people to the right facts. Still, it would be nice if Webtrends could admit the f’up and say they’re sorry (sans any snark).

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  • wsbob July 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    “A local web marketing/consulting firm has plastered a MAX train with the question: “Should cyclists pay a road tax?” ” maus/bikeportland

    I didn’t quite understand to what extent the train was ‘plastered’ with Webtrend’s antagonistic question until this evening when I saw a rendering of a MAX train with that question on it in Friday’s Oregonian. Thought it might be ads on the inside of the train(s). Well no. The entire side of a two car train has their question on it.

    Except for the fee Webtrends has paid for the privilege of using the side of the two train unit to pose their question, the sense of responsibility on their part in doing so seems little better than that which illegal scribble taggers seem to have. To antagonize the public for the company’s self aggrandizement appears to be the reason Webtrends has put this question in the public eye the way they have.

    Their action here doesn’t indicate any interest on their part in encouraging a constructive dialogue amongst Oregonians in regards to how funding for roads might be produced. It seems as though they just choose to irritate the public. To borrow mikeybikey’s phrase….’poke the cat’. Well, perhaps some of the people at Webtrends are content with the simple thought that, ‘Whatever the means, if it makes money, it’s good for Webtrends!’ .

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  • BURR July 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    the question posed by the max ad is not useful dialogue. it is sensationalist junk politics and junk media.

    This says it all….

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  • BURR July 4, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    not only is the question as posed junk politics and junk media, but any ‘data’ collected, and its analysis, is sure to be junk science, as well.

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  • Ian July 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I emailed this to Justin.

    Justin,
    To start off I will tell you I am a cyclist in portland. Born and raised here. I also own a car, and drive about 3000 miles per year. Mostly to go snowboarding.
    I have spent my life in marketing, mostly in the action sports products and media world.
    I am telling you this so you get who I am, and that I am not what would be considered and anti car extremist.

    I think what you and webtrends didn’t understand before you placed your ad on the max, is the level hatred coming from the anti cycling people.
    I have been a roadie since about 1990, and at least two or three times a year I have a confrontation with an aggressive or ignorant driver. They range from the consistent door opening into the bike lane, to actually being assaulted by a car.
    A few years ago when I was riding down from skyline on NW Cornell/Lovejoy I had a car driving less then three feet behind me. I was riding around 35 mpr, which means I was speeding. This car got on my ass and started honking and reving its motor. it passed me in the tunnel going at least 60 and screamed “get off the fucking road”, cut in front of me so I had to hit my brakes, then slowed down to force me to slow to keep from rear ending him.
    When we got to the stop sign at the bottom he got out and so I stopped, he was screaming shit about how roads are for cars and bikes need to be licensed and pay taxes.

    We deal with this all the time.
    To me the question you posed, saying you wanted to have a conversation is similar to “is global warming real”? except it doesn’t involve my life and other cyclists.
    When an incredibly small percentage of people believe global warming is bogus, and you give them a platform to say it isn’t, is this really a conversation?

    What you have done is given an equal voice to a group of angry anti bike people, and you stirred up their hatred again.
    I am sure you have received emails or read this since, but here it is again. I pay property taxes. I own a business, so i pay taxes there and personal taxes. I own a car. All of these pay into the general fund where most money for city transportation projects come from. Gas taxes mostly go to federal projects.

    I decided to write this to you because a few hours ago I was riding down NE Broadway and a guy pulled up next to me at a light a yelled “if you fucking bikers down start to pay for your fucking bike lanes then us real americans are going to have to take charge”.

    So do you realize who it is involved in this “conversation”? You are provoking and empowering these people who think it is ok to run me off the road.
    People who believe that cars own roads, and not the “public”. People who think that their saving 30 seconds of their drive makes it fine to put my life in danger.

    Your ignorance might cause someone to run over a cyclist.

    I hope this opens your eyes.

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  • bahueh July 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Justin..you really, really just don’t get it man.
    This isn’t some game…this isn’t some social marketing scheme…this is our lives on the roads every single day…and your actions deliberately and unforgivingly put them in greater danger with your decisions at work….all it takes is one asshole who’s had a bad day and wants to take it out on someone…sees your signs…reinforcing his/her idea that he’s somehow getting the shaft by a cyclist…and decides to take it out on the next one he/she sees..

    I have a family and loved ones too…a good job..and responsibilities…I”m just trying to get some exercise and get to work and fulfill those obligations I have to others….all legally…and responsibly…I stop at stop signs..I obey basic traffic laws…and still you want to put my life in danger to create a marketing buzz….

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  • Drew July 4, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    Lots of frustrated drivers out there. The car was supposed to give freedom but that didn’t happen. Costs a lot and you are stuck in traffic much of the time.

    Can’t yell at a boulder in the road for slowing you down; does no good. A cow probably wouldn’t care. But you can take out frustrations by threatening a person on a bike. If you hit them just say you didn’t see them. Works every time and you don’t even get a ticket. Of course what is really slowing cars down is other cars (why is the obvious so hard to see?). But the anger is directed at the vulnerable.

    It’s a fact that everybody subsidizes people who drive. No conversation is needed. But embedding this fact in our society is very important to begin reducing road conflicts.

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  • joe July 5, 2009 at 2:57 am

    ok, so during the 20 minutes it took to read the comments, I noticed a few things:
    1. i am now a big steve bozz fan. more from him, please.
    2. i do not see these “attacks” against some marketing dude. I think someone misread a comment about attending this beer and blog thing. having said that, beers with anyone who thinks a conversation has a “temperature” and cannot spell vilified is probably going to be a colosal waste of time.

    Finally, the ultimate irony? people like justin – who are afraid to ride their bikes because it does not feel safe are the ones that we really need to reach about getting on their bikes. If he were to ride his bike, he would not ask questions that put cyclists in danger. then again, he won’t ride his bike because of Ignorance like this makes him feel endangered.

    So, my new campaign ad suggestion to TriMet: What would it take to make Justin feel safe riding in Portland?

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  • […] vs. Car War so they could sit on their computers, making angry comments on BikePortland.org, where Jonathan Maus’s editorial on the subject has 139 comments, as of this […]

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  • Payton July 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    The entire argument is entirely specious and without technical merit. Q`ztal (#57) mentioned road weight vs. axles. An engineer once told me that the cost of wear and tear on roads is proportional not just to weight, but to the fourth power of weight.* Here in Chicago, an SUV pays a city license fee of $120/year. Cut that down to my weight, apply the fourth power, and the equivalent tax for my “heavy CrMo bike” would be $0.00005/year — one penny every 200 years.

    What people get mad about is not wear/tear, but rather cyclists’ use of public space — i.e., the streets. Yet cyclists use that space so much more efficiently than cars (witness the yield of on-road bike parking) that such arguments should similarly be non-starters. After all, any tax levied proportional to cyclists’ public-space burden would either be laughably small (as above) or result in stiff penalties for road-hogging drivers.

    * Think about it: when was the last time you saw a sidewalk, or bike path, worn or damaged by use and not by weather, trees, or cars?

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  • What I’ve been reading July 6, 2009 at 12:57 am

    […] A resounding no […]

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  • Sandra Elliott July 6, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Wow – I’m offline for a weekend, and the flames burned high.

    First – full disclosure. I work at Webtrends, too – I’m a trainer there. I don’t have anything to do with marketing campaigns, but I’ll bet I’ll be using the data we collect in future classes.

    Second – I don’t drive to work. I bike or walk most of the time, and take the bus when I can’t do that. Since I moved here from Houston, I admire the city’s dedication to making all three of these forms of transit possible.

    Third – I guess I am lucky that I haven’t had any of these run-ins with scary, angry drivers. I have, though, had several run-ins with angry people on bicycles when I’ve been driving – such as when I was stopped at a stop sign and had a bike whiz past me on the right, even though I had my right blinker on, and then scream at me and skid to a halt and come back and beat on my car for a while. And that’s just one example.

    So, the end result seems to be that our company did pick a very inflammatory subject in which to engage. I’m willing to bet, though, that no one involved considered it inflammatory, nor did they mean it to be. And I certainly know that Justin isn’t out to get cyclists in trouble – he’s a reasonable guy who was trying to interact, and I think it sad he’s been attacked so.

    If you’re angry at Webtrends, I understand and encourage you to do something about it. I’ve boycotted Wal-Mart for years, stood in rallies against big corporations, protested corporate-boosting laws, and much more. There are productive ways of using that anger to make positive changes. And then there’s simply attacking, being mean, and wishing harm on others – and that’s what several of these comments seem to be. I hope we can settle this down, as many people have suggested, and have a meaningful conversation here.

    Final note: Neither Justin nor I are trying to be spokespeople for our company. We’re here as our own individual selves – people just like you.

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  • Kt July 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Sandra, I think you and Justin need to do some educating of your co-workers and employer about where the money comes from to pay for roads.

    The whole ad campaign your company has embarked on screams to me that you are one of the millions of people out there that have absolutely NO CLUE where the money comes from to pay for roads.

    Whether that’s fixing existing roads, reconstruction of existing roads, or construction of new roads– the money comes out of the pockets of EVERYONE who lives, works, and buys here.

    People who drive do not pay the larger portion, just because they drive.

    Studies have shown that personal automobile use is heavily subsidized by everyone else, and in fact DOES NOT pay its own “fair share”.

    Maybe if your ad campaign had asked if EVERYONE who used the roads needed to pay a road tax, that would be a fairer question.

    Basically, your ad campaign has legitimized the angry people’s feelings that the roads are “theirs” and that they don’t need to share.

    I’m sure your employer and co-workers didn’t mean to fan the flames and create this controversy– but if you all were truly that ignorant about this subject, I weep for your future! A few minutes search on this site, or even on the Great Google, would have educated you a lot more thoroughly than your ad campaign will.

    I understand that the written word does not allow people to hear the “tone” of what you are saying, especially between strangers who are already defensive and upset. However, if you truly want to have a “meaningful conversation” here, I suggest you strongly urge your employer to put out a press release stating the facts of road funding. That would go a long way towards restoring your and Justin’s and your co-workers’ credibility with the cyclists out here.

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  • Justin Kistner July 6, 2009 at 10:12 am

    We are releasing a blog post today with an update. A few of the key points include the discussion about a false dichotomy, inferring cyclists aren’t already paying taxes, and whether or not this is a dead issue. It will cover more than those points, but I know those are the ones of interest to some in this comment stream.

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  • NB July 6, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Hi Sandra:

    I don’t think any of us realized that you and Justin were here contributing as individuals. As representatives of WebTrends, your bland responses made it seem pretty clear that you were here to support the company’s perspective or encourage the “discussion,” etc. However, if you two are actually posting here on your own time, of your own volition, please contribute by actually chiming in with your own opinions. I think part of the reason everyone is so upset with you two is that you so far have only made vague allusions to keeping the discussion going without actually adding to it. Your actual participation will win you our respect.

    With that in mind, I would like you to comment on why you did not phrase your question, as those above have suggested, as something like “Should road users pay a road tax?” Again, there is currently no such thing as a road tax. Roads are not financed through dedicated taxes.

    I realize that your question is basically an advertisement (in its brevity), and it is difficult to impart complex information through ads, making it challenging for you to enumerate how road fees are already leveraged (property taxes et al.). Like others have noted, roads are not vehicle specific – they are owned and used by the people. Yet narrowing your focus to bicycles gives the (false) impression that bicyclists are somehow freeloaders. (See the comment above about your question being about whether people should have to pay “their share” – if you understand how road fees are levied, this is a patently wrong interpretation of any question about a bicycle specific “road tax.”) In other words, targeting bikes has turned your question into a pretentious appeal to “democracy” to solve an issue that has already been solved.

    In light of the fact that the House Bill about road tax has already died – in other words, our democratically elected representatives consider the issue settled – and if you at WebTrends actually are interested in a constructive discussion about how societies should pay for their roads, can you please explain why the question is framed misleadingly and in a way that inflames people from both sides?

    Thank you.

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  • John Lascurettes July 6, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Sandra, one final nitpick about your anecdotal story about the biker who “whizzed” by you on the right. You were both in the wrong. Yup.

    Oregon ORS states that if you are turning right, you MUST yield to bicyclists on your right. That is the law. If you don’t like it, I encourage you to change it. Personally, I think it’s silly the way the law is structured too, it too often forces a right-hook situation. Also and again personally, if i see a right turn blinker at a light or stop sign ahead of me, I get behind or to the left of the car (both legal maneuvers).

    Since you were at a stop sign and the cyclist “whizzed” by you, then he didn’t stop as he should have, so he was also in the wrong.

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  • BURR July 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

    not only does Oregon law require motorists to yield to cyclists on the right, the City of Portland in all it’s wisdom (yes, I’m being facetious here) is actually encouraging cyclists to pass motorists on the right through the poor design of it’s on-street bike infrastructure (bike lanes, green bike boxes), with more and worse infrastructure to come in the future (can you say ‘cycle tracks’).

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  • Sandra Elliott July 7, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I appreciate the info on the laws, John and Burr!

    As for my personal opinion on the issue – well, this is a sensitive one, and people obviously have a lot of very strong feelings about it. I’m really wanting more to listen and learn here, and to that end, I’d like to see those feelings channeled toward positive discussion rather than attack. I’m glad to say I’m definitely seeing more of that the more we share.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Sandra,

    do you realize that it’s Webtrends’ fault that you’re not seeing “those feelings channeled toward positive discussion rather than attack.” ?

    You and Justin still don’t seem to want to admit that you’ve made a mistake.

    Your campaign is a lie and it is having a negative impact on public safety in Portland. It would be great if you could just admit that you made a mistake and then show some class and try to make it right.

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  • Dan Kaufman July 7, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Jonathan #150, WebtTends™ hasn’t made any mistake at all. In fact, they made a cold, calculated decision to exploit our community and then analyze the reaction.

    For WebtTends™ this campaign is raging success. The final irony is that I’ve just added one more notch for their metrics.

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  • NB July 7, 2009 at 10:23 am

    @ Sandra #149

    As for my personal opinion on the issue – well, this is a sensitive one, and people obviously have a lot of very strong feelings about it. I’m really wanting more to listen and learn here, and to that end, I’d like to see those feelings channeled toward positive discussion rather than attack. I’m glad to say I’m definitely seeing more of that the more we share.

    I’m sorry, this is the exact kind of meaningless marketing doublespeak I was referring to. Not only have you not contributed to the discussion, you also have not answered any of my questions. What is (still) clear, though, is that you and Justin have absolutely no vested interest in this issue, and that your sole purpose for commenting in this forum is to “encourage” people to continue talking about it solely to increase whatever sort of web metrics you’re selling. In other words, you have made it abundantly clear that this is 100% a marketing ploy (which everyone already knew, and no one was surprised), and has nothing to do with bicycles or the citizens of Portland whatsoever.

    As such, I would like everyone to IGNORE anything Sandra or Justin says on BikePortland. As non-participants, they should be treated as unwanted advertisers and are no longer welcome here. Furthermore, I would suggest everyone STOP commenting on this issue, and especially stop referencing the company WbTrnd$. Please do not help add to their business.

    I would further suggest to Jonathan that the comments in both of your articles on this issue be closed and that both articles perhaps be deleted from the site. I advocate a complete stonewall of Sandra and Justin and everything they stand for.

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  • Pashful Gazelle July 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Hear, hear. Every one of J.’s and S.’s comments has been weaselspeak. Ignoring them and letting their clients and supporters know how you feel is maybe the way to go. For example, Widmer Bros. supplied J.’s Beer & Blog with suds last week. So Widmer got an earful from me along with a pledge to never buy their products again.

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  • NB July 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Great tip Pashful! I’ll email Widmer as well. Anyone else know any other clients of WbTurds we can contact?

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  • steve July 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I just contacted Rogue, which sadly now owns the Green Dragon. The person I spoke with at Green Dragon has also promised to leave a little something special in Justin’s beer next time he is there.

    Everyone please also contact the Mercury about Justin and/or websucks being named rogue of the week. Remind them to not mention webcraps by name!

    I agree with post #152, you should delete these threads Jonathan.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    RE: deleting these stories and comment threads.

    As much as I would like to for the reasons several of you have stated, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to start deleting things and/or closing the comments.

    I am really amazed at how brazenly ridiculous this company has been about this entire thing and their unwillingness to admit they messed up is shocking…. i’m trying to figure out how to cover this more… or if I should cover it anymore at all.

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  • NB July 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Jonathan, like I said in my email, I understand your predicament. So how about this – let’s just use these forums to spread information about how we can oppose WbTurd$, like contact info for their clients, their sponsors, their employees, etc. who we can send messages to.

    For instance:
    Jason Palmer (VP): jason.palmer@webtrends.com
    Justin Kistner (in charge of the ad): justin.kistner@webtrends.com
    Sandra Elliott (also working on the ad): sandra.elliott@webtrends.com

    Also email Widmer and Rogue.

    Also tell the Mercury to list WbTurd$ as Rogue of the Week.

    I’ve sent this info to the Shift List.

    What’s next? These are good ideas, everyone! Keep ’em coming!

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  • NB July 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Correction: make that W. Week for Rouge of the Week!

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  • J Garrity July 8, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Full disclosure. I work for Webtrends. I do not work in the marketing department. I wasn’t involved directly in this ad although I did know that our company was going to advertise on the MAX and knew of its primary goal to generate online dialog for measurement.

    Ever since our company launched this ad on the MAX train, I have been annoyed and a bit angry. I think it is a bad approach for a number of reasons:

    1. The ad is taking a trivial, dated and absurd issue, then presenting it in a way to make it seem like Portland is divided on it.

    2. Our company is more interested in the online conversation than it is about the specific issue. That is our core business, not worrying about road taxes. I’ve never had a single conversation about road taxes since I’ve been working here for a year. In fact, I’ve seen more promotions and sponsorships that encourage our employees to get out and get involved in bike riding events and programs.

    3. The way the question is worded is so poor that it makes it seem as if our company is sponsoring the idea that bicyclists should pay for a road tax. Even if it was trying to be neutral, it failed with the wording, unless our company really does feel that bike riders are getting away with highway robbery… literally.

    4. Even if the online dialog about this ad becomes more positive, it still doesn’t change the fact that the ad is plastered on the side of a train in paint. For many people that don’t engage online, they will either never see the positive notes in the conversation to make them question the road tax proposition or they will have to wait a painfully long time for the second ad to make its appearance, enough to imprint the idea as a legitimate one.

    5. Advertising on the MAX is half advertising and half sponsorship. The ad dollars help offset the cost of running the train. So, what is Webtrends sponsoring? Could you imagine a Webtrends ad at PGE park that asks if food vendors are charging too much? Wrong format. That could be a great topic for a daily paper where you don’t have stare at it every day.

    6. Advertising on a train where cars and bicyclists share the road together is not a good place to host an online dialog about divisive issues like this. In fact, to many concerned this could drive the wedge even deeper or incite aggression on either side.

    7. Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Just by asking the question, we are affecting the outcome.

    It seems that the folks in our marketing department wanted to do was to spark a conversation and measure the results so it could return with a follow up ad that would share the dialog. There is something really cool in that idea. Use advertising space to generate an online dialog. That is cool and forward thinking. It could be used for good, not for evil.

    But, what Webtrends should do and do it ASAP, is to publish the followup ad immediately and replace the current ad. It shouldn’t wait for the scheduled date it had planned weeks or months later. Obviously, the trends and dialog that has flowed in over the last few days has shown that many people are not happy with the ad. I imagine they didn’t realize that the ad was going to go in this specific direction and the reaction was going to be this negative.

    The response ad, which again should be published immediately, could advertise anyone of the following options:
    1. We are sorry!
    2. Does Trimet need to change its advertising policy and review process?
    3. Portland is a bike town. It is part of our DNA. What could we do to improve bike safety and increase bike riding adoption?
    4. Or almost anything that builds pride in the community.

    I don’t know how long this ad will continue, but not all of us at Webtrends are in support of this ad. If an online dialog is what was sought after, I just contributed to it and feel a bit slimy for doing it because I now feel like I am playing into the game. I wish that our company would do the right thing and use the money already set aside and publish the response ad immediately and apologize for the unintended provocation.

    Wish me luck when I go to work tomorrow.

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  • fredlf July 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Good for you, J Garrity. That was a brave and honorable thing to do. I hope WebTrends rewards you for it. I would, if I were your manager.

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  • NB July 8, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Great post, J Garrity. It’s easy to forget that WbTrnds is made up of a group of individuals who may not all share the same ideals. Furthermore, it’s rare to see someone stand up for integrity against their personal interests and associations. I hope WbTrnds pays attention to your comments, and I hope everything goes well at work today!

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  • iheartcycling July 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I think everyone can agree that it’s a stupid ad and a stupid question. It was designed to incite a response and a response they have. But is it a good response? Instead of responding to the validity of the question, we have attacked the right to ask it. Portland will not judge us by the questions we are asked but by our response to those questions. We are not reactionary bullies that resort to fear mongering and name calling when we are challenged. We are intelligent people. We are leaders of our community who push for cyclist rights. And we need to start acting like it. No matter how shallow and poorly thought out the questions was, it has given us an excellent opportunity to show the city (and beyond) how we the Portland cycling community respond to diversity of ideas. We have the the chance to show that we’re not complaining blow-hards, but passionate debaters who advocate our rights not by knee-jerk tantrums but well though out dialog. We can’t expect the tone of discussion change if we don’t do our part to change it.

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  • jami July 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    It is legitimate to question whether this should have been put on the side of a MAX train. I ride the MAX and thus I pay for the danged thing, and I hate to think one day I’ll run up against a train where I have to be even more excessively nice to get my bike on there without feeling I’ve created a new bike hater.

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  • NB July 9, 2009 at 11:03 am

    @ iheartcycling

    I think what we’ve attacked is the question itself – its arbitrary, meaningless nature. Since “road taxes” do not exist, asking if a specific group should pay them is like asking if people born in July should pay more for health care.

    The even bigger problem is that WbTrnds has asked the question in a way that 1) implies that there is not already a factually established explanation for how roads are funded (which is not the case), and 2) does not actually give anyone a voice or venue for correcting the aforementioned misconception that cyclists are not already paying for roads. For instance, if the Oregonian had gotten some people together to do point-counterpoint in the paper on this issue – an actual “debate” – then even if some people would have hooed and hawed about the question not being valid, at least we would have been able to directly refute it. Instead, WbTrnds simply “stirred the pot” so that everyone would get upset about it, and then sat back and collected their web data so they can give a good report to their investors.

    In other words, what we dislike is being exploited.

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  • J Garrity July 11, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Work went well. My post sparked some conversations and caused some debates. I don’t know what will happen but I hope my comments and others here have an influence.

    Thanks for the support and the emails.

    J

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  • TS July 13, 2009 at 12:02 am

    WebTrends seems to have done a poor job on this one.

    Judging from the above, the half-life of this discussion appears to be well less than a week. (Irrelevant side point: it’s taken at least the discussion’s half life before the emotion cooled a little and rational responses became predominant.) The quickest possible turn-around for advertising on MAX can’t be less than a month, so any sort of follow-up through that venue will be untimely, something WebTrends should have realized at the outset.

    The question obviously wasn’t market-tested. Probably a small bunch of people got together and just came up with something in a brainstorm. There’s no visible control question. (Not that you would expect it to be visible ordinarily, but WebTrends has openly discussed other aspects of this experiment.)

    The choice of advertising location (only one, apparently?!) and limited means of response assure the responding population will be biased. The choice of response mechanisms provides no mitigation for the responding population bias, nor even any way to know what or how bad such bias is.

    The response itself is free-form text. The only way to measure free-form English text is for trained native speakers to carefully read and rate every single response on relevant scales. WebTrends doesn’t appear to be doing this.

    The response page was changed mid-way through the experiment.

    There have been blog updates, revelation of data sources and preliminary results, and interference from the company itself in those same data sources.

    The types of data analysis and method of summarization (a tag cloud… seriously?) are questionable and inconsistent with the sources of that data. For example, WebTrends doesn’t have access to know how many unique commenters responded to this website. Even for someone who had access to the logs (i.e. Jonathan Maus), determining uniqueness is difficult. Even an elementary understanding of statistics and scientific method appears to be lacking. I’d say the understanding of marketing and advertising appears pretty weak, too, but those are not my areas of expertise. I could go on…

    Obviously, I don’t think any measurements or “metrics” WebTrends gets out of this (or anything else, for that matter) are even worth seeing.

    It looks to me like the only story here is a stunning public revelation of incompetence. Given such incompetence, it’s hard for me to imagine any sort of malicious motive, though the charged emotional environment they created is undeniable.

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  • WOBG July 14, 2009 at 11:45 am

    WebTrends has released analysis of comments so far: http://blog.webtrends.com/2009/07/14/initial-campaign-results-from-our-max-ad/#comment-1071

    So far, however, they are *not* allowing my comment, reproduced below:

    What’s not addressed here is that this campaign merely follows in the footsteps of local media who, over the last few summers, have trumped up “Cars vs. Bikes: It’s war!” stories that inflamed road passions and ushered in the season’s spate of injuries from car vs. bike road-rage incidents.

    This summer, local media were quiet—but WebTrends ably filled the vacuum, as seen in all the rager comments on KATU and oregonlive.

    Thanks, WebTrends, for keeping our summer commutes lively. This summer’s blood is on *your* hands.

    What price publicity?

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  • Justin Kistner July 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

    WOBG, we’ve been approving all comments. If you’re willing to try again, I’ll look for it to approve.

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  • Justin Kistner July 14, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Found it and approved.

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  • WOBG July 14, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Justin, it’s in your queue now. My view tells me “Your comment is awaiting moderation”—as did the one I left a few days ago that never went up.

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  • […] A May 2008 study by UC Davis’ Institute for Transportation Studies estimated that; “the total ‘tax subsidy’ to motor-vehicle users in the US may be in the range of $19–64 billion per year, or $0.11–0.37 per gallon of motor fuel.” (editorial on BikePortland.org) […]

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  • Michelle B. July 31, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    So what’s next, making pedestrians pay cross-walk fees! Ridiculous to bring it up for research sake since it creates more hatred toward bikers on the road.

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